Rep. Walt Rogers in the news

Education Spending in Iowa Model for the Nation

If you were convinced that the ceiling was falling in on education spending in Iowa over the past several years, it’s not surprising, given the rhetoric that has been passed around in debate.  Legislative Democrats spend hours on the House and Senate floors lamenting the historic increases that House Republicans put forward year after year, claiming over and over again that it’s not enough, schools need more.  They point to other states spending on education as examples of where we should be.  But a new report that was released this week proved that it is Iowa other states should be looking to as an example.

The article detailed the report (from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, CBPP), titled “A punishing decade for school funding,” focuses on the “dramatically” declining public investment in schools across the county over the past decade.  The data points to the year 2015 when 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in pre-recession 2008.

But where does Iowa fall in this range?  4th best in the nation, with an increase of 20.6% in total state funding per student, inflation adjusted.

This isn’t new information from the CBPP.  Iowa has shown this recover in several of the Center’s previous reports reviewing this data.

The legislature continued school funding increases this year with a $40 million investment, despite a very tough fiscal year.  House Republicans, along with Gov. Branstad, committed to keeping the promise to fund schools with new money despite the need for reductions in many other areas of state government.  In fact, when state revenues fell again shortly after the legislature set the $40 million, House budget committees worked hard to find the savings in other areas to prevent backing up on that increase.

The results?  Combining this new funding increase for school districts, the state has now increased school funding by over $730 million over the past 7 years.  Teacher leadership funds are delineated separately due the unique nature of its interaction with school funding overall and to provide clarity to the conversation.

 

Fiscal Year  (school year) Percent Growth State Cost Per Pupil State Spending Increase TLC Increase
FY12  (11/12) 0% $5883 $178 million  
FY13  (12/13) 2% $6001 $29.2 million  
FY14  (13/14) 2% + 2% one-time $6121 $63.2 million + $57 million  
FY15  (14/15) 4% $6366 $148.6 million  
FY16  (15/16) 1.25% $6446 $37.2 million $50.2 million
FY17  (16/17) 2.25% $6591 $81.8 million $53.3 million
  6-yr total increase   $641.5 million + $57 million
FY18  (17/18) 1.11% $6664 $39.9 million $54.0 million
  7-yr total increase   $735.4 million + $57 million

 

State investment in general K-12 education has increased from $2.446 billion in FY11 to $3.183 billion in FY18, a 30% increase.

House Republicans are proud of the investment the state has continued to make in our state’s schools.  It’s been sustainable and reliable and has kept Iowa towards the front of the pack nationwide.

To see the full report, visit:  https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding

Change in Iowa’s union bargaining law prompts first shifts in schools

Written by , mryan@dmreg.com | Des Moines Register

Each year, the Iowa Department of Education releases its Condition of Education report. Here are 7 facts about Iowa schools from its 2016 report. Wochit

Waterloo teachers who work with some of the most challenging special education students will earn $6,000 more than other teachers with similar seniority and credentials.

In Burlington, decisions about where teachers will work and which programs they will lead are no longer based solely on seniority.

And in Carlisle, teachers who break their contracts to take a new job in another district face a $1,000 penalty.

These are just a few ways Iowa schools are re-examining teacher compensation after an overhaul of the state’s collective bargaining law.

This past session, the Republican-led Legislature reduced the ability of unions to negotiate on behalf of public employees, including public school teachers.

The change grants district leaders greater decision-making power. Districts are still required to work with unions to set base wages, but the new law prohibits collective bargaining for things like additional pay, seniority, grievances, employment benefits, insurance and other employment policies and procedures.

The Register contacted nearly 30 school districts that have signed new teacher contracts since the law took effect in February and found a wide variety of changes to district policies that previously fell under union negotiations.

 In Waterloo, changes include an effort to retain some special education teachers and para-educators who work with students who have behavioral challenges. The goal is to keep teachers from leaving the district and provide more consistency for challenging students.

Special education teachers “should absolutely feel that support; they should feel the support because it’s coming with additional resources,” said Waterloo Superintendent Jane Lindaman.

Waterloo’s decision marks a “positive shift” for public schools, said state Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, who chairs the House Education Committee. “It’s common sense. It’s one of the things we were hoping for,” he said.

Yet some fear changes in compensation could create dividing lines between teachers, creating winners and losers, and pitting districts against each other as they compete for staff with pay.

 “You’re saying one teacher is more valuable than another,” said state Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, ranking member of the House Education Committee. “What would be more helpful, instead of pitting one teacher against each other, is more help in the classroom.”

Shift from seniority

A major shift in some districts is the changing role that seniority plays in how teachers are rewarded. State law now prohibits districts from negotiating with unions over seniority-related policies and perks.

“I don’t think that parents of students or the taxpayers would automatically assume that seniority equals higher-qualified teachers,” said state Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.

Prior to a recent change, for example, position transfers in Burlington schools were based solely on seniority.

Each spring, teachers would gather in an auditorium for what was known as “bid day” to view and “bid” on open positions. Teachers with the most seniority bid first, which prevented younger teachers from obtaining certain positions or working in sought-after schools.

As a result of the law change, Burlington schools will consider other factors in transfer decisions this spring.

Sharon Dentlinger, the district’s director of curriculum, said the goal is “to get highly qualified people and the most energetic, motivated, enthusiastic people to work with our kids.”

Yet many remain skeptical. Internal school politics could become a larger factor in hiring decisions if a consistent measuring stick such as seniority is not used, said state Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines.

“When seniority is one but not the exclusive factor, you have a lot of room to pick and choose favorites,” he said.

Tammy Wawro, president of the Iowa State Education Association, said that the collective bargaining bill will deter future teachers from the profession. The Register

Some superintendents have addressed staff concerns about the shift away from seniority head-on, reminding staff that Iowa employment law still applies. It prohibits discrimination based on certain characteristics such as age.

Last spring, a group of teachers went to Waterloo Superintendent Jane Lindaman with concerns that the new law would allow the district to fire the most experienced teachers as a cost-savings measure.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not, we will never do that,'” Lindaman said. “It would not be good for kids … we value teachers, and teachers who have been here for a while play a great role.”

Tammy Wawro, president of the state teachers union, said teachers are still “in shock, and in some cases they are very scared” by the changes.

“Morale is very low in places I go,” she said.

Policy changes

Many districts contacted by the Register kept policies or procedures previously negotiated with unions in their handbooks, which now govern most employee pay and benefit decisions.

But some are testing the waters by making smaller changes.

In Carlisle schools, for example, teachers who break their contracts for the upcoming school year will pay a $1,000 penalty, although a waiver is offered for unforeseen circumstances.

The penalty is designed to keep teachers from leaving the district for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

Each summer, some Carlisle teachers are lured away by offers in the Des Moines metro, said Superintendent Bryce Amos. “It does put a hardship on the district to fill those positions in the summer,” he said.

Such changes mark a shift in decision-making power. Superintendents told the Register they continue to seek input from teachers and staff, just not in the way previously required.

“For 40 or 50 years, this is all Iowa has known — it’s always been collective bargaining,” said Bill Thompson, superintendent of Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn. “It’s a whole new world.”

This spring, about 140 districts rushed to pass and extend multi-year contracts prior to legislation taking effect.

The majority of school districts will negotiate contracts with teachers under the new rules by the 2018-19 school year, according to a Register review of data from Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board. The rest will follow in subsequent years.

Some speculate that teachers could seek other ways to influence district policies through local school board politics. Elected officials hire and oversee superintendents.

“You’re going to have people getting more involved in the political end of things,” said Randy Richardson, a former leader of the state teachers union who is now part of Iowans for Public Education, a Facebook group with more than 12,000 members.

Pay changes to come?

A lingering question is just how aggressive some Iowa districts will be in competing for top teachers or staff, and how willing those professionals are to move districts.

For decades, many of Iowa’s teacher contracts created the opposite effect: Disincentives to relocate or move between districts.

It wasn’t unusual for a 20-year veteran teacher to be compensated at the rate of a 10-year teacher when hired by another district, for example.

“You almost paid a financial penalty to move,” said Thompson, superintendent of Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn school district.

Superintendents told the Register they’re watching how neighboring districts change their approach to pay, recruitment and incentives. If necessary, they could make changes to stay competitive.

North Scott’s district is already studying different pay structures, reviewing more than 20 different approaches instituted by Wisconsin districts, including a more contentious model that rewards teachers based on performance.

In some states, that’s come to mean a system that pays teachers more money if student test scores improve or if they take on tougher assignments.

One challenge of the current system is how long it takes young teachers to reach a competitive wage, North Scott Superintendent Joe Stutting said.

“We’ve got to attract the best,” he said. “That’s not just competing against (nearby districts), it’s also competing against private industry in a strong economy.”

That has some district officials concerned. In the 500-student district of Griswold in western Iowa, for example, no pay increases were granted this year.

“It really depends upon other schools,” Griswold Superintendent David Henrichs said. “If they start offering huge signing bonuses, it’s going to put us at a disadvantage.”

Management decisions

While it’s unclear how the state’s collective bargaining overhaul will affect Iowa’s 333 school districts, the Register largely found examples of changes being made to address local issues.

Superintendents are doing “what they can to address whatever they need to address,” said Roark Horn, executive director of the School Administrators of Iowa.

In grade-sharing districts of Prairie Valley and Southeast-Webster-Grand, for example, leaders used changes in the law to align employee pay and benefits.

The districts participate in whole grade sharing, meaning students from both communities attend class with one another, and teachers from both districts work in the same schools.

Despite that collaboration, teachers previously worked a different number of days, had different insurance options and even earned different wages — all based on separately negotiated union contracts.

The two rural districts had been working for multiple years toward a common agreement, but were unable to reach one through collective bargaining, Superintendent Brian Johnson said.

Under the new law, the decision-making process was streamlined for Southeast Valley schools, as they’re collectively known.

“We were able to meet and confer with a group of association leaders on both sides, and hash it out more smoothly than bickering over the fine details,” Johnson said.

Boulton, the Des Moines legislator, said a similar outcome “should have been easy to reach through a quality bargaining process.”

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “We threw out a process that hinged on reasonable compromise.”

But some disagree. The law’s intent was to give decision-making power back to administrators and school boards, who are more accountable to parents and taxpayers, said Schultz, the Schleswig legislator.

“There is always going to be some people disappointed, yet you can’t stay in a difficult situation forever,” Schultz said. “This situation sounds very similar to (one in the) private sector, where a decision has to be made.”

Imbalance continues in K-12 school funding, Iowa Ideas panel says

Imbalance continues in K-12 school funding, Iowa Ideas panel says

CEDAR RAPIDS — If education funding in Iowa received a grade, some education experts and legislators said Friday that it would be a poor one.

Discrepancies in funding equality affects almost half of all of Iowa’s 333 school districts, Superintendent of the Davenport Community School District Art Tate said during a panel at The Gazette’s Iowa Ideas conference.

Tate said his district has been shortchanged about $2.7 million a year due to the spending formula. With 66 percent of his students on free or reduced-price lunch, he said, “There are not enough assets to serve our students.”

Before the 1970s, public schools in Iowa mostly were funded through local property taxes until the state increased its aid as a portion of the school funding formula.

The formula allows for some districts to spend as much as $175 more per students than others, meaning an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars for some schools’ general funds.

Although state lawmakers review the funding system every five years, state Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said nothing has been fixed.

“The legislature does not have the political will to get it done,” Mascher said.

Friday’s panel came on the heels of school board elections and several bond votes throughout Eastern Iowa last week. The Iowa City Community School District, for example, passed the biggest bond in state’s history when voters approved the $191.5 million bond for facilities projects. Linn-Mar School District, however, failed to pass its $80 million bond.

The panel discussion also turned to how funding should be allocated, a topic to be discussed in the upcoming state legislative session. School districts currently receive an increase in the percentage of state supplemental aid from the budget, depending on overall revenue.

State Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls and chairman of the Iowa House education committee, said he predicts legislators to start at the current standing of 44 percent of the state’s general budget “and go from there.”

“The biggest thing tightening our budget is Medicaid,” Rogers said. “There’s been a six percent increase overall budget-wise (in Medicaid funding) over the last 10 years.”

But Tammy Wawro, Iowa State Education Association president, pushed back, saying that having a percentage of an unknown number — as the general budget depends on still-incoming revenue — leaves much to the unknown.

“That doesn’t help us plan or make me feel comfortable about where we’re at,” Wawro said.

Instead, Wawro said teachers should be guaranteed a baseline within their incomes and benefits. This would be key, she said, in recruiting and retaining quality educators in the state’s districts.

“If we cannot be competitive with states outside of Iowa, we are going to be in a world of hurt and we are not going to see kids staying in the state to teach here,” Wawro said.

In a discussion on school transportation, Rogers said there’s a need for more innovation and efficiency.

Allocating large portions of their state aid on their transportation can force some school districts to cut advanced-placement courses and other programs, Wawro said.

Mascher also said a solution for rural schools, which struggle to offer more programs, can be found in an initiative through the Iowa Department of Education that offers high school courses online.

However, just having conversations on these issues could show that effort is being made in the right direction.

“Putting the stake in the ground is huge, but I think we’re there,” Tate said.

Written BY: Michaela Ramm – The Gazette

**Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls) speaks on a panel about education funding at the Iowa Ideas conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Over 200 speakers and 600 attendees gathered to discuss the ideas affecting Iowans across various disciplines. (Photo Credit – Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)**

Rogers ready to work with Reynolds

CEDAR FALLS — When the Republican Women of Black Hawk County began their June meeting, they paused to marvel at how far they’d come since they met two months ago.

Iowa has a woman — and a Republican one — as governor for the first time.

They had another reason to be in good spirits. The meeting was a chance to look back on a state legislative session they felt made gains toward a more conservative future.

 State Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, talked about legislative accomplishments, the 2018 session ahead, working with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the 2018 election with Reynolds and her likely running mate Adam Gregg topping the ticket.

“I’m excited for Gov. Reynolds. It’s neat to say that, isn’t it? Gov. Reynolds,” Rogers said. “I look forward to working with her.”

He said the two have been friends going back to a campaign school they both attended in 2008. They have worked closely with each other on education issues during the past legislative session, particularly with her role in the STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — advisory council.

“I look forward to working closely with her and her team to make education the best it can be in Iowa,” Rogers said. “There are some things we can do to make it more efficient but more … effective.”

Rogers said Reynolds has regularly sat in on meetings as lieutenant governor so she is ready to step into the lead role now that former Gov. Terry Branstad has been named ambassador to China.

Rogers expects her to follow Branstad’s path during the next legislative session and then branch out on her own if elected in her own right.

While one audience member expressed excitement for Reynolds, Rogers cautioned she could face a potentially tough campaign.

“I tend to believe that our economy, we’re starting to see some good things happening, signs of coming back,” Rogers said. “President Trump seems to have done some things that we as electors wanted him to do, and so I think those will be positives, so I’m hoping that economy-wise we’re in at least a growing state. If that’s happening by a year from this fall, I think Republicans will be in good shape.”

He noted Branstad has always been a strong campaigner, but he sees in Reynolds someone likely to bring “even more energy to the process,” and he looks forward to see what her passions are.

Rogers said Reynolds picked a good lieutenant governor in Gregg, but not the best one. He told the Republican women he was a contender and in talks with Reynolds, so he had a different preference. But he said Gregg will bring youth, a good political mind, energy and experience in the internal workings of the executive office.

Describing his feelings about not being selected, Rogers said, “I don’t know if it’s disappointed. The way I look at my political career is whatever doors open I’m going to look at them and potentially go through them. I was honored to be on the list.”

He plans to be a part of the GOP slate in 2018.

“All I know is I’m the education chair, and that’s a big job that I want to try to do the best job I can for Iowa in that role,” Rogers said. “I’ll plan on running again in 2018 … and beyond that, I don’t have any other ideas.”

Source: WCF Courier – Staff Writer – Political reporter at the Courier

Iowa schools are getting a better deal

A recent guest columnist alleged that the Republican-led Legislature has cut funding for K-12 schools (“The truth behind school funding cuts,” May 9). Fortunately for Iowa schools, this is undeniably false as funding has increased by more than $735 million over the last seven years.

Here’s what those funding increases look like:

• FY12 — $178 million

• FY13 — $29 million

• FY14 — $63 million (plus $57 million in one-time funding)

• FY15 — $149 million

• FY16 — $37 million (plus $50 million in Teacher Leadership funding)

• FY17 — $82 million (plus $53 million in Teacher Leadership funding)

• FY18 — $40 million (plus $54 million in Teacher Leadership funding)

Total state investment in K-12 schools now totals nearly $3.2 billion per year, which accounts for 44.5 percent of all general fund spending.

In order to find the last time that schools had their funding reduced by the state, one needs to go back to 2009 when former Gov. Chet Culver ordered two across-the- board cuts, a 1.5 percent and a 10 percent, costing schools $259 million. These across-the-board cuts devastated school budgets and left property taxpayers on the hook to make up the difference.

This hasn’t happened since Republicans took the majority in the Iowa House.

This session, the Legislature’s first order of business was to make budget reductions after revenue estimates were not coming in at the level that was anticipated, due to low commodity prices and the lagging farm economy. From the beginning, House and Senate Republicans, along with Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, took K-12 education cuts off the discussion table and held them harmless.

The second order of business in the legislative session was passing a responsible level of funding that schools could depend on. We passed a funding increase of $40 million in the first 30 days of session so that schools could begin planning their budgets.

It’s crystal clear that K-12 schools continue to be a top priority for the Legislature. While most areas of government have seen budget reductions in the last number of years, funding for schools has only gone up.

Another important thing to note is that for the first time in several years, the Legislature actually discussed and passed legislation that addressed a number of education issues outside of how much more money schools would receive. We gave schools more flexibility by easing some of the burdensome restrictions on certain “silos” of funding that accumulated large balances from year to year. We made it easier for districts to use those unused funds on the specific needs of their students and teachers.

We provided schools with home rule authority so that local school boards can innovate and make decisions that are best for their students.

Finally, we started a conversation about funding inequities. Whether it’s transportation costs, English language learning or the per pupil rate, each school has its own unique challenges and opportunities. While no resolution was reached on this subject due to a tight budget, discussions have begun, and we will continue to look into this during the interim.

• State Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, is chairman of the Iowa House Education Committee

Rogers explains his decision to skip forums

I recently stated I will no longer participate in community forums organized by a coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters. Some on the political left have complained about this; I believe it remains the right decision.

I first want to be clear organizations like the League of Women Voters are a key part of our civil society, just like apolitical groups, including the Rotary, Lions Club, Kiwanis, Elks and Shriners and conservative political groups like the Club for Growth and the Iowa Family Policy Center. Civic groups like these, along with churches and families, are the glue that holds our civilization together.

While the League of Women Voters is generally a liberal group, I have participated in the forums for several years. I have done this despite the fact the forums are run by Democratic activists; former Democrat legislators have served as moderators, and a former Democrat county chair serves as timekeeper.

 In the past, I have asked representatives of the forums to consider improvements, to no avail. At the last forum I attended, one of the main topics was collective bargaining laws. The moderator was a representative of a public union lobbying against the changes under discussion. The forum organizers are clearly not providing a neutral environment for discussion.

None of that is new; it has been going on for years, but I have continued to participate anyway, because I want to be as engaged with my constituents as possible. But recently the environment at these forums has changed for the worse; liberal activist groups have become disruptive and disrespectful, and unfortunately, in the case of the extreme left, spew vitriol. My presence at this particular forum is a catalyst for that vitriol. This is not an atmosphere for productive dialogue.

As a state representative, it is my job to take every opportunity I can to listen to the citizens who elected me, whether they voted for me or not, whether they like me or not, and whether they agree with me or not. One way I do this is knocking on doors: I knock on thousands of doors every year, seeking input and asking for support. If you live in my district, I have probably knocked on your door about a dozen times since I first ran for office eight years ago.

Other ways I pursue engagement with my constituents include attending community events and, yes, participating in forums. The Black Hawk County Republicans have held a couple of forums this year; they were upfront about the fact that the forums were Republican in nature, but people with a variety of viewpoints were treated respectfully and civilly.

Moving forward, I am hopeful a truly neutral organization like the Rotary or the Chamber Alliance would consider organizing forums. I am also open and willing to work with League of Women Voters leaders and my Democrat colleagues on a better solution.

Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, represents House District 60.

Walt Rogers to chair Education Committee

Iowa Republican State Representative, Walt Rogers of Cedar Falls, has been named Chair of the Iowa House Education Committee.

Rogers, who represents Iowa House District 60 in Cedar Falls and parts of Black Hawk County, will take over as Education Committee Chair when the 87th General Assembly begins on January 9th.

Voters re-elected Rogers to another term in the recent November election.

Republicans now have control of both chambers of the Iowa Legislature by wide margins.

Written by Ron Steele | Anchor – KWWL